IT-based public bikesharing has grown rapidly in North America over the past eight years. What are the trends in business models employed by bikesharing operators? What are the user impacts across cities of differing system and population sizes?
A 2014 Mineta Transportation Institute study by Shaheen et al. evaluated public bikesharing systems in North America from several angles. The study developed operator and member surveys to analyze current operational practices, business models, membership demographics and environmental and social impacts.
The study found that in 2012, there were 28 IT-based public bikesharing programs with approximately 1.1 million users sharing 17,344 bicycles at 1,599 locations in North America. Between 2007 and December 2013, there were 37 IT-based public bikesharing program launches and three program closures in the United States; four program launches and no program closures in Canada; and three program launches and no program closures in Mexico.
Bikesharing operator trends
In North America, casual users accounted for 85.5 percent of all bikesharing users during 2012. At the close of the 2012 season, the majority of bikesharing programs were non-profits (representing 15 of 28).
Of responding North American operators, sponsorships accounted for approximately 42 percent of operating revenue, 22 percent came from membership fees, and 19 percent from usage fees. During the 2012 season, a daily (24-hour) membership pass in the U.S. averaged about 7.75 US dollars and an annual membership about 62 US dollars.
Bikesharing user impacts
In addition to operator surveys, an online member survey was implemented in five cities: Montreal, Toronto, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Mexico City.
The member survey found that respondents reduced their bus usage since joining bikesharing in four of the five cities. Likewise, it found that bikesharing reduced driving by large margins across all five cities.
Rail usage among surveyed members varied, more members in Salt Lake City and Minneapolis-St. Paul increased (14 percent and 11 percent, respectively) their use of rail rather than decreased it (7 percent and 2 percent, respectively). In Montreal and Toronto, however, 57 percent and 49 percent reported decreasing rail usage, while 7 percent and 8 percent reported increasing rail use. Finally in Mexico City, 17 percent reported decreasing rail while 13 percent reported increasing rail.
These modal shifts in rail are likely due to differences in public transit networks of the respective cities. Mexico City, Montreal and Toronto are all large cities with dense public transit networks. In contrast, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Salt Lake City are relatively smaller, with less intensive transit systems.
The future of public bikesharing in North America
Bikesharing can have varying impacts depending on differing city and system attributes. It is important for public bikesharing operators and the municipalities they are functioning in to consider these factors to better plan new bikesharing systems or future expansion.
Efforts toward this have already started and in Spring 2014, public bikesharing operators joined together to form the North American Bikeshare Association (NABSA) to encourage collaboration and best practices among bikesharing system owners, managers, operators and service vendors.
How often and for what kind of commute, do you use public bikesharing system? Share your opinions in the comment section.
Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.